Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Innocents.....Back East, Florida.

usbackroads destination--Innocents......Back East, Florida.

travel dates Feb.18th through March 18th, 2015.

I immigrated to this country in 1956 and the US government asked us to stay five years in New Jersey.  Patterson, New Jersey has a profound influence on my life.  I suspect it was the reason I became a professional Forester.  Never wanted to take a chance on living there again.

We moved to California in 1961.  I made two brief trips to the banks of the Big River to meet my wife's family.  Went east of the continental divide in Montana and Wyoming for brief periods, but never have been back east since 1961.

I have always wanted to see the Everglades and the Florida Keys so after 54 years I found myself "back east".  So in the spirit of Mark Twain here are my "innocent" observations on back east.

We landed in Tampa and by the short drive to our friends house I could tell just by the billboards we weren't in Wenatchee any more!

Yes, the motto in California is that it "better to look good that to feel good".  However, the billboards promised both in Florida with even one surgery that everyone in the car blushed at the thought!  I thought I had seen it all growing in the 60's in San Francisco and Berkeley!

The other big surprise was the friendliness of the residents.  Out west everybody thinks the east coast is rude and unfriendly.   Not my experience. Another myth bites the dust.  My apologies to east coast folks visiting the west.  I will try and return the favor.

Auto horns.  I always thought they were a very poor form of communication.  Heard more horns here in one month than in 50 years of driving out west!  Most drivers out west do not know where the horn is located.  Not so in Florida.  Do not hesitate at the light or you will get the horn.  Can you be friendly when you are leaning on your horn??

Then there is gas station etiquette.  People fill up their cars in Florida.  Then LOCK it next to the pump and go inside!!  Meanwhile, everybody else just waits for them to return!  No horn blowing, fights, or comments on their intelligence.  Out west, once your done pumping gas into your rig.....you move it before going inside!!  Otherwise bad things could happen to you and your vehicle.  Well, at the very least you will have an interesting conversation on politeness.

Number of people!  Wow.  I had a nephew visit Wenatchee and comment that we had a lot of DIRT.  Florida has a lot of concrete!  The state is 30 percent in public ownership, but almost all of it is under ONE foot of water!  So much for hiking!  However, these guys really do like the water.  Lots of them everywhere.  They were actually listed as an endangered species in 1973.  Removed from the list in 1987.  And my guess, they are close to being declared a pest in the near future.

Then there is the weather thing.  80 degrees and 80 percent humidity!  How does anyone breathe?  The other interesting weather observation is after the sun goes down it stays hot! How do you manage that??  That was the toughest thing about the weather.  I could not convince anybody to drop the air conditioner temperature to 65 degrees at night.

The above picture is our motel in Tarpon Springs.  A nice community surrounded by millions of people.

Our favorite part was the Florida Keys.

Key West is a great shopping mall built around a historical town.  We have our own shopping mall town in Leavenworth, Washington.  Leavenworth is full of little old ladies shopping.  Key West is full of 20 somethings shopping.  I prefer looking at the 20 somethings than the little old ladies, though I now have more in common with the little old ladies.

It was funny to share a table with a couple from New England.  They did NOT like Key West. They made some comment about all the gay couples and people smoking marijuana on the street. They said it was just weird.  I just started laughing and said we were from Washington state.  Seems we legalized all that years ago.  However, I did find it weird to find that many people smoking marijuana and NO STORES selling it in Key West.  After I made that comment they quickly left.

We did enjoy the Keys.  It is a unique and interesting ecosystem.  Crowded with people, but still worth the visit.

We were driving back to the airport when the electronic highway sign announced a Silver Alert!  We just looked at each other and laughed.  No way would they have a alert system for wayward old folks!  But it is true!  By the way, the sign announced that the missing gentleman was driving a Lexus when he went missing.  

One last thing, Florida is spring training for lots of east coast baseball clubs.  That made picking a game to watch difficult and I finally decided just to go to a game where it was easy to get tickets.  It seems those spring training games are popular even at $27 a ticket!

So we ended up watching the Yankees play the Detroit Tigers.  Baseball is still a great game even if the game your watching is between the Yankees and Tigers.  Nice stadium, though.

We spent a month exploring this wonderful and odd corner of the United States.  We will next post on specific locations and adventures.  With apologies to Mark Twain for this posting.